Strategy shift: How CMOs are leading data-driven marketing (part 1)


American Red Cross's Banafsheh Ghassemi with Teradata's Lisa Arthur at the Argyle CMO Forum in Philadelphia.Technology has dramatically changed the way people communicate, do business and generally lead their lives. It’s increasingly online, and it’s increasingly mobile. In turn, those technologies have created tons of data-driven marketing opportunities, and it turns out that there are some recurring themes in how CMOs are leading the charge.

Big data, the explosion of channels, the advent of social media and customers' changing habits and expectations can be challenges – if you see them that way.

A more productive approach, of course, is to consider them as opportunities. At least that’s one conclusion I drew from the topics discussed at the most recent Argyle Executive Forums CMO Leadership Forum in Philadelphia. More specifically, I was able to gain some good insights into how CMOs are leading data-driven marketing:

Define the vision and build from there

For marketing leaders at the American Red Cross, the opportunities lie in targeting potential donors with the right messages about the right ways for them to make an impact. At the same time, other opportunities result from shifting the competencies of their marketers to be comfortable with data, while maintaining their creative edge. In the face of all this change, Ms. Banafsheh Ghassemi, their VP of Customer Experience & CRM also believes the best starting point is to create a vision of what you want your customers to remember you by, and then build the rest of your marketing around that vision. This strikes me as good, solid advice and I’d add that you need to make sure that vision aligns with the corporate mission – if not, then one of the two needs to be re-thought.

Be informative – not annoying or creepy

As the executives considered customer engagement in our hyper-connected world, Andrew Shipe, VP of Marketing at Aramark Sports & Entertainment speculated that we may be breeding impatience through how we’re marketing to our audiences with these new channels and technologies. But more importantly, what’s happening is that the definition of what’s relevant now has as much to do with time and place as it does with the quality of the content. So, while we now have the ability to make offers to consumers that pass by your store, should you do it? Oppenheimer Funds’ VP of Marketing Technology, Mr. Fu’ad Butt offered that there’s a fine line between informing and annoying. And annoying can very easily become creepy.

And for some period of time as marketers continue to use online behavior, contextual data and unstructured data to inform the ways we engage our customers, there’s a certain amount of creepiness that will inevitably happen before it starts to become normal, according to Matt Spiegel, SVP and GM of Americas at MediaMath. I can see his point, but I still think markerts would do well to tread carefully about how they gather and use data. With all the controversy relating to government spying on constituents and others as revealed by Edward Snowden, there’s always the possibility of inciting possible legislation to put limitations on gathering and using online data.

Measure, check questions and visualize more

It’s clear to all that marketing now has a mandate to demonstrate ROI. So, what are some of the thoughts on metrics and conecting marketing initiatives to financial results?

We should talk less about big data, and more about how we act on that data, per MediaMath’s Spiegel. And while we’re at it, let’s stop and consider what we’ve been measuring in our traditional channels and use that as a starting point.  We also need to make sure we’re capturing the right data, and also that we’re asking the right questions, added Oppenheimer’s Butt. As he put it, BI is passé and now it’s really about data visualization because that can allow you to see patterns in the data you did not previously imagine.  He further added that profitability and customer lifetime value are still relevant measures, both of which you can connect to your marketing initiatives and get to ROI.

These are just three of the data-driven marketing strategy shifts that have emerged for leading CMOs to capitalize on the dramatic changes in marketing. In my next post, I'll share the remaining strategies that I captured at this Argyle CMO Forum. In the meantime, let me know what you think of these strategies, or leave a comment with your own stories of adopting data-driven marketing strategies. As always, thanks for following!


About Author

John Balla

Principal Marketing Strategist

Hi, I'm John Balla - I co-founded the SAS Customer Intelligence blog and served as Editor for five years. I held a number of marketing roles at SAS as Content Strategist, Industry Field Marketing and as Go-to-Marketing Lead for our Customer Intelligence Solutions. I like to find and share content and experiences that open doors, answer questions, and sometimes challenge assumptions so better questions can be asked. Outside of work I am an avid downhill snow skier, hiker and beach enthusiast. I stay busy with my family, volunteering for civic causes, keeping my garden green, striving for green living, expressing myself with puns, and making my own café con leche every morning. I’ve lived and worked on 3 contents and can communicate fluently in Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian and get by with passable English. Prior to SAS, my experience in marketing ranges from Fortune 100 companies to co-founding two start ups. I studied economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and got an MBA from Georgetown. Follow me on Twitter. Connect with me on LinkedIn.


  1. I completely agree that we need to talk less about "big data" but more about actionable insights, because at the end it is not the size of the data that would help us drive our business but it is what actions can we take. I disagree that BI is passe since data visualization itself cannot provide actionable insights; good data visualizations would only come after careful analysis.

    • John Balla

      Thanks for your comment, @Ashutosh! You make a great point about BI (and any analytic tool) - it's only as good as the analyst. In marketing, well-trained people with business acumen and the right perspective will always play a role in properly harnessing the power of marketing analytics.

  2. Pingback: 2013 marketing round up in five hot topics - Customer Analytics

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